Levelling the playing field

Published in Briarpatch Magazinehttps://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/levelling-the-playing-field When the Canadian Premier League (CanPL) first launched in 2019, it was met with excitement and acclaim. The start-up men’s professional soccer league was part of an unprecedented media deal worth $200 million over 10 years, saw promising match attendance in the debut season, and broadcast matches nationally through the CBC. In 2020, the league grew to eight teams and, despite the pandemic, successfully hosted a tournament in Charlottetown that was broadcast internationally. But beyond the glamour of the billboards and television broadcasts, CanPL’s players – the backbone of the whole league – have been struggling for respect and fair pay.

Mental health professionals are not the solution to racist police violence

Published in Briarpatch Magazine and Upping the Antihttps://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/mental-health-professionals-are-not-the-solution-to-racist-police-violence The recent uprising in response to the police murder of George Floyd has sparked widespread condemnation of anti-Black police violence and growing acceptance of radical alternatives to the police. On June 23 2020, the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) joined the chorus of condemnations after the murder of Ejaz Choudry by Peel Regional Police during a wellness check. In a statement, CAMH argued, “Police should not be the first responders […] people in crisis [should be] first met by mental health responders”. But this suggestion—to replace the figure of the police with that of the mental health worker, requires closer scrutiny. Missing in this analysis is recognition that the mental health field has an ongoing history as a major perpetrator of racial and colonial violence alongside the police.

Collective action is essential

Published in Briarpatch Magazinehttps://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/collective-action-is-essential Workers are finding ways to organize despite the fear and uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis. Through courageous public actions and less-visible organizing strategies, they are confronting the inhumane logic of racial capitalism that says our labour is essential but our lives are not. We know that employers won’t respect workers’ rights without a fight. Neither will governments that put profits before people and undermine already limited workplace protections. The only thing that we can rely on is the collective power we build by organizing together. Workers are demonstrating this by refusing to do unsafe work, exposing bad bosses, forming unions, engaging in mutual aid, and building coalitions to fight for a more egalitarian society. 

Fans should back the CPL Players Union

Published in Northern Starting XI

2020 is already a remarkable year for soccer players in North America. The Major League Soccer Players’ Association (MLSPA) won significant improvements to their collective agreement, including a higher wage budget, a share in media revenue, an increase in the minimum wage, and greater player mobility. The United Soccer League Players’ Association (USLPA) added USL League One players to its membership after voluntary recognition from the league, affording a collective voice to more players, many of whom suffer from well documented precarity and low wages. On the heels of these achievements, sources are indicating that Canadian Premier League (CanPL) players have begun organizing amongst themselves to form a union.

Sinophobia won’t save you from the coronavirus

Coauthored with Kate Shao and Kennes Lin for Aljazeera

Shortly after the first Canadian case of the new coronavirus was announced in January, David Shao, a healthcare worker from Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba province, was taunted by colleagues to go home and stop “spreading the virus”. He was not sick; he was, however, the only Chinese person in his workplace.

When a disease is racialized

Published in Briarpatch Magazine and Lausan

As someone who grew up in Hong Kong during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic, I have a deep familiarity with the trauma and distress associated with disease outbreaks. With school cancelled for almost a month, my eyes were glued to the daily death counts on the television. The fear and panic was palpable, with the city’s usually packed malls and restaurants emptied. But this legitimate fear of sickness or loss can also often entangle with deep-seated racism, where fear becomes a licence for xenophobia. This was certainly the case during the SARS outbreak in Canada – today, we are witnessing a rerun with the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak.

Money Moves: Labour Organizing in Chinese Supermarkets

Published in Nghtshfts Journal

Ever since Mr. Bao arrived in Canada, he worked in grocery stores. While he has since retired, the backbreaking tasks are forever ingrained in his muscle memory. The exhausting work of mopping the floors, stocking the shelves, and wiping up spills are beautifully captured in the movements performed by Mr. Bao and artist En Lai Mah in the film, Money Moves. The work of being a grocery store employee caused tremendous strain on Mr. Bao, resulting in numerous injuries, including inflammation of his legs and the spraining of his arm. Despite these major sacrifices, wages were low and often below minimum wage stipulations. Hours were also long – up to 12 hours a day – with no overtime pay provided.

Unfortunately, these conditions are not exceptional. This was evident during a rough-cut screening of Money Moves to a tightly packed audience of largely Chinese blue collar workers. Audience members were moved by the film and emboldened to share their own experiences of abuse and injury. A restaurant worker in particular was in tears recounting one such injury, thanking Mr. Bao and En Lai Mah for their courage in telling this story.

How to abolish the Hong Kong police: Thinking through the ‘sixth demand.’

Published in Lausan and The News Lens:

Tensions with the police have reached a breaking point in the wake of the death of HKUST student Alex Chow Tsz-lok, who succumbed to his injuries on November 8 after falling from a parking garage where police were dispersing protesters. On November 10, riot police fired tear gas into multiple university campuses, a traffic cop shot an unarmed protestor with live ammunition in broad daylight, and a police motorcyclist was filmed ramming into protestors, in one of the movement’s most traumatic days yet.

Insurgent politics amid Hong Kong’s existential crisis: A new politics born out of the old

Published in Upping the Anti and Lausan

Even in a city like Hong Kong, where mass protests are commonplace, it is undeniable that the current resistance sparked by the government’s introduction of legislation to allow extradition to China is historic in scale and substance. For the past few months, there have been protests with attendances in the millions, almost daily confrontations with riot police, “non-cooperation movement” involving acts of civil disobedience targeting Hong Kong’s infrastructure, a general strike, and even multiple suicides as political acts, with no end in sight. The protest movement has coalesced around five demands: withdrawal of the extradition bill, retraction of the riot designation for the June 12 protests,[1] amnesty for arrested protesters, inquiry into police conduct, and implementation of universal suffrage.[2]

Unfortunately, the coverage of these struggles both in the West and in China have been marred by oversimplification. There have been ongoing attempts by people to impose narratives on to an amorphous and divergent protest movement. For example, Western media and Chinese state media have been inundated with images of Hong Kong protesters flying colonial and American flags, despite flag bearers representing a small segment of the crowds. For Western far-right activists, it shows that the Hong Kong protest movement is serving as a flashpoint for the defeat of communism, “[a]s Berlin was to the Cold War.” For the Chinese state and its supporters, these flags are evidence that the protests are symptomatic of a colonial mindset instilled by British colonizers and mobilized by Western forces.

Lost in the coverage is the fact that the waving of these flags have not gone unopposed. During a protest at the Wan Chai police headquarters on June 21, protesters chanted “take back the flag” at a colonial Hong Kong flag bearer who had climbed up a fence. Posters on LIHKG, a message board that has served as the main organizing platform for the protests, have also consistently criticized Western flag bearers. Conversely, the British colonial regime and its political framework is perpetuated in Hong Kong’s current governance model—not in opposition to but intertwined with the Chinese state. Many of Hong Kong’s Chief Executives and high ranking police officers have been inherited from the colonial government, as have police tactics and technology.[3]

The imposition of narratives by outside forces, including various regimes and capitalists, has been a consistent feature of Hong Kong’s existence, with Hong Kong’s raison d’etre limited to that of an interface between China and global capital, or a pawn for geopolitical conflict. But Hong Kongers are fighting back and staking a claim for self-definition. One of the more prominent slogans of these protests has been Bruce Lee’s “be water,’’ a call for protesters to be adaptive to changing conditions. But Bruce Lee also reminds us that water does not just flow, it “can crash.” Just as water crashes against the shore, slowly eroding cliff faces, imposed narratives are being eroded away by the tenacity, organicity, and participatory nature of the protest movement, creating challenges and opportunities for the imagination of a new politics in Hong Kong and beyond.

The settler colonialism of social work and the social work of settler colonialism

Fortier, C., & Hon-Sing Wong, E. (2019). The settler colonialism of social work and the social work of settler colonialism. Settler Colonial Studies, 9(4), 437-456.

The consolidation of the social work profession in Canada was critical to the settler colonial project. Parallel to the rise of the modern police force, the accounting bureaucracy, and the colonial legal apparatus, the social work profession is a foundational component to the creation, expansion, and adaptation of the settler state. Through a historical review of the origins of social work and its professionalization in Canada, this paper argues that contemporary social work and social service provision remain circumscribed by the logics of conquest, extraction, apprehension, management, and pacification that advance the settler project and seek to secure settler futurity. Given the incommensurabilities between social work practice and Indigenous processes of decolonization this paper explores potential pathways towards unsettling social work practice including disrupting dehistoricization (working towards the repatriation of Indigenous lands, children, and cultural traditions and the upholding of Indigenous sovereignty); working towards deinstitutionalization (challenging the institutionalization of service provision and re-focusing on mutual aid, treaty responsibilities, and settler complicity; and promoting deprofessionalization (the restructuring of the ‘helping’ practices of social work back under the control of communities themselves.